By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – When the Cleveland Browns traded star running back Trent Richardson away to the Indianapolis Colts, it looked like the team had decided to start a process of deconstructing and rebuilding early.
Frankly, it seemed like the Browns had mailed it in. Even Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush thought the move seemed like something of a concession.
“You kind of look at that and you say, well there goes a big piece of their offense,” Bush said. “I think everybody thought that. Hopefully I wasn’t the only one. I don’t think I was. I think everybody else thought the same thing. Trent Richardson, he’s a great player, really good running back.”
The Browns, who have reeled off three straight wins, apparently knew what they were doing. It certainly helped matters that Cleveland added 11-year veteran running back Willis McGahee this year. McGahee recorded 1,000-plus yard seasons with three different teams – Buffalo, Baltimore and Denver.
With his fourth team, so far McGahee has been as effective as ever, although his 127 yards through three games played is not particularly statistically impressive.
“He fits their run game,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. “They run a lot of counters and powers and things like that. He’s big. He’s probably bigger and stronger than he’s ever been in his career, churns out yardage. He hasn’t rushed for a great average, but I think that’s more probably because he hasn’t broken any long runs, but he’s been a consistent chain mover. They’re pretty high in the league when it comes to long drives, like 10-plus play drives.
“They’re build to sort of grind it out that way, and he’s a good running back for that,” Schwartz continued. “He’s been around. He’s been successful in a lot of different schemes, but I think he fits well in that scheme, and our ability to stop that run and not let him continue to move the chains, that’ll definitely be a key on Sunday.”
In addition to McGahee, the Browns also possess a major downfield threat in 6-foot-5, 245-pound tight end Jordan Cameron, a three-year player out of USC. Cleveland’s quarterbacks throw to Cameron often, targeting him 10 times or more in three of five games so far. Cameron has 396 receiving yards to this point.
Against the Lions in week two of the preseason, Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden hit Cameron for two touchdowns in the red zone. The Browns won 24-6.
“He’s a tough one,” Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz said. “In the Norv Turner offense, tight end’s always been a productive player. When he was head coach at San Diego with Antonio Gates, there’s some similarities there. You can go just around anywhere in Norv Turner’s career.
“[Cameron’s] playing a key role in their offense, not just short passes but also long passes,” Schwartz added. “Five touchdowns already this year, so he’s made a lot of plays for them, and our linebackers and safeties’ ability to keep him from affecting the game and making big chunks of yards is definitely a key this week.”
Richardson is gone, and Weeden may originally have been the second-stringer, but the Lions could still have their hands full. McCahee and Cameron could cause trouble for Detroit, and Mathis is not taking Weeden for granted either.
“Any quarterback that’s in the National Football League, if you let them, they can beat you,” Detroit cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “That’s how I always looked at it. I’ve see guys who’ve come off the bench who never was a starter, come in the game and light the game up, and the team don’t take him as serious as they should. We’re relaying that to the guys – he’s an NFL quarterback, and he possesses the skills. He got drafted for a reason. He’s here for a reason, so if we let him, we can beat us, and that’s any quarterback in the league, so we have to respect him in that aspect.”